On Tuesday, May 14, the feast of the icon of the Mother of God "Unexpected Joy," Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan paid an archpastoral visit to the eponymous church in Staten Island, NY, and celebrated the festal Divine Liturgy. Concelebrating with His Grace were Archpriest Serge Lukianov (dean of New Jersey), Abbot Vladimir (Zgoba; parish rector), Archpriest Paul Ivanov (rector of Holy Myrrhbearers Church in Brooklyn, NY), Priest Alexander Revyuk (rector of Holy Trinity OCA Church in Brooklyn), and Deacon Pavel Roudenko (cleric of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City).
Despite its being a workday, many parishioners came to pray at Liturgy. The parish choir sang prayerfully. Almost all received Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Bishop Nicholas congratulated the clergy and believers with the ongoing radiant days of the Resurrection of Christ and their patronal feast day. In his sermon, Bishop Nicholas said, in part:
"For forty days, we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, and today, we have another joy: we honor the Mother of God. Before us is the marvelous icon of the Mother of God "Unexpected Joy." The church is decorated, the priests arrayed in beautiful vestments: we rejoice, proclaiming the Risen Christ to the whole world, rejoicing that we have a loving Mother – the Theotokos. We do what we can to thank God for His abundant mercy.
"Before us is the icon, whose history we know. A sinner brought up in the Christian Faith prayed before any evil act, but he could not stop, and continued to sin. And here, in a visible way, the very Mother of God and the Savior, Whom she holds in her arms, came to him: wounds appeared on the image of the Savior. And this prompted the sinner to repent and wholeheartedly call out to the Mother of God: ‘Forgive Me!’ We thank the Mother of God for receiving us, penitent sinners. And we need to repent, come to church, take part in the Sacraments, and cry from the depths of our souls and with all our hearts: ‘O Lord, forgive me! O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!’
"And today, on a weekday, we are gathered in the temple, because our first priority is worship, the glorification of the Lord and His Most Pure Mother. And if we continue to live like this, then the Mother of God will not leave us, she will hear our prayers, and will intercede for us before her Son, Jesus Christ.”
In turn, Fr. Vladimir thanked Bishop Nicholas, the clergy, and faithful for their prayers during the festal services. Turning to His Grace, the rector said:
"We treasure and understand how in the difficult moments of the founding of this church, you were always with us – and by a miracle of the Mother of God revealed her love to all of us. May the risen Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, overshadowing you with His light, fill your heart with peace, tranquility, and love, and keep you for many years."
Upon conclusion of the service, a festal reception was held, during which many congratulatory and warm words, expressions of God’s help to the glory of the Holy Church, were read.
Staten Island, NY: Bishop Nicholas leads Patronal Feast of "Unexpected Joy" Church - 05/15/19